Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

I used my writing prompt book and I have to say that I appreciate this quote from Dr. Seuss. It speaks to me at the moment. I’ve read lots of his books to my kids and remember reading the books a long, long time ago. There is something about the books and reading them aloud that is soothing. It’s the wit and the nonsensical stories that entertain. I also think that Dr. Seuss holds a place in my memory as an academic due to the collection at the UCSD Library.

I spent many days at the library working on my grad school papers and my dissertation. The foyer occasionally displayed some of Dr. Seuss collections and I would at times procrastinate and pore through the holdings. Well, Dr. Seuss also had some war propaganda pieces and part of my work focused on Mass Political Behavior–I was doing research! In all seriousness, this quote is an important one for reflection. People who care about you  aren’t apt to take offense at what you say. The people who care about you get you and are more willing to accept you and your quirks. And, well the people who have problems with what you say…they might not be worth your time. I know that this is not a truth; however, it is worth thinking about when you interact thoughtfully with people.

Presence as a Gift

This quote reminds me what a gift mindful listening is. I refer to being present and communicating. We are all so busy and giving the gift of our time is a real present. This is really about the gift of mindfulness when we are with others. Are you a good listener? Are you present when you are with your loved ones, friends, and co-workers? I remember one of my professors from my undergraduate days could never be bothered to actually look at me or near my direction during office hours. She was too busy doing her mail and putting together her next lecture. I never felt like I had her attention. I learned something from those visits to her office, though.I learned that I would never do this during my office hours. I am present.

I have my limits and know what times of day that I am best for better listening or office hours, for instance. It is important to know when you are productive for the work that you need to do. As much as I would love to have my office hours one day a week, like some of my friends, I just can’t do that. I need about an hour or hour and a half at tops to focus, listen, and help. Then, I need to take care of the paperwork from the meetings, and get to the next task. I feel that I can offer my full presence two to three designated times per week and then for appointments as needed another hour in the week. Now these are the sort of meetings where I am working with my undergrads. I’m not referring to meetings with my graduate students or colleagues.

I attend lots of meetings based on sitting on different committees and I have to say that it is easiest to be present with the focused or organized meetings and most of the university meetings have an organized agenda, which I really appreciate. When the Chair of the meeting leads effectively, the meeting is more successful. One colleague from the Law Faculty would also time the different points on the agenda. These organized meetings kept all of us present. I wish that I was able to follow suit with this tactic, but overall, I learned lots from her. She was present and made sure that we all were present at our meetings.

Thinking of friends and presence is important, too. I really need to feel like the friendship is mutual in order to be present and give my attention. I can recharge after a great coffee or lunch with a good friend and I hope that they feel the same way. And, of course, I try to be present at home with my family. How do you focus? How do you stay present? One easy tactic is to keep the technology at a minimum or to have technology breaks. I will do this with girlfriends, a social media break when we all spend 2-3 minutes checking in or we agree to no phones. My family keeps me on track: they ask me to unplug. How are you mindful?

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Mentoring and Coaching: Listening

I work with hundreds of students each term and do my best to help as many as I can. One way that I do this is to set up my course assignments in such a way that each one builds on the next and that the student can learn and improve. I also actively mentor and coach many students from the prospective student who I might take on a tour or chat with in my office through the graduate student teaching her or his first class.

As a mentor or coach, I appreciate those moments when I can celebrate a student’s success. And, those teachable moments, when focus is needed to figure out what is next. What is the next step after there is a set back. These moments provide lessons in coping, crying, and then the strategy. What are Plans B, C, and D? There are also times when you just have to keep quiet and listen. I find that in many instances, the person sitting across from me at the coffee table or in my office needs to articulate aloud what they’re thinking and you have to listen attentively and pause. For me, this occasionally means biting my tongue. I want to help, but the help is to just listen and encourage.

A good mentor/coach must listen. When a student gets closer to their last year, term or graduation a panic can set in for them. I remember this feeling before I graduated, as I wondered what graduate school would be like (that is another post). I’ve bumped into many current and soon to be former students and April was all about listening and encouraging them. They are on the precipice of major change and need to work through this. The best gift I can give is to listen. Today I’m thinking about the importance of listening.

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My Lifetime Listens to Yours. Muriel Ruckeyser

I have a book of quotes that serves as writing prompts and this is prompt two. There is space to write on the page, but I sent the first prompt to a friend in another department. And, have torn out the second prompt. Now, the title of this post comes from part of poem and the lengthy poem says lots. But, what does this excerpt say or how does it speak to you. I am thinking like a Political Scientist or Social Scientist at the moment and how I learn from reading and listening. If I think from a mentor’s point of view, I know that my reading and listening includes what is not said or spoken. People have “tells” for when they lie or feel uncomfortable and these nuances of movement are important to support and understand. What is your tell? I have different tells, but one is to stop and think and take a drink of water. During this short moment, I am thinking of my response–formulating what I want to say next.

We listen with more than our ears. But, do we learn from what we hear and see? I am in the midst of heavy marking and looked forward to this writing prompt and I come back to learning from others. I have also had several hours of office hours and meetings and tried my best to listen intently these past few work days. I firmly believe in life-long learning and this prompt reminds me of the importance of mindfulness. When I think of mindfulness, I always picture Dr. Juliann Allison, as she practices mindfulness in all that she does. This week I am trying to actively practice mindfulness. The Ruckeyser quote was the perfect reminder, as I try to balance out meetings, honors presentations, grading, and planning a conference. And, that is only part of the to do list. I’m breathing in and out and trying to listen.